I know that people hold strong views about whether chickens should free range or not.
We live on four acres of land and our girls have always free ranged. We've had chickens for years, and only recently (this summer) begun to lose chickens to predators. I don't like this for several reasons. First we love our chickens, and second we love their eggs.
We firmly believe that they are animals though, and not people. Having said this, we also believe that we are to care for the land and the animals we have. They eat very well, these hens are healthy and happy, and we've enjoyed their personalities and antics.
They used to go into my garden, but being smart animals we were able to teach them to stay out of the garden.
We've always taken care to make sure they are locked up at night and don't let them out if we are going to be away for the day. Tim built a great waterer and feeder system for them, so when they have to stay in all day, they have continual access to food and water.
We are on the look out for the predator. If we can catch and remove him, that would be a very good thing. We have 13 chicks growing fast and we want to be able to keep them safe, so I am considering the best thing for our hens, here at the cottage, at this time.